Eco-friendly cooking oil now available at FairPrice

It is first supermart chain to do so; 2 products certified to be from sustainable sources

FairPrice Premium Cooking Oil (right) and FairPrice Vegetable Oil sold at NTUC have been certified by the supplier to be from certified sources under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). PHOTOS: NTUC FAIRPRICE

Singapore's biggest supermarket chain now stocks two cooking oil products which are certified to be from sustainable sources.

FairPrice, which has 134 outlets here, has become the first supermarket chain here to carry environmentally-friendly cooking oil, said volunteer group People's Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze).

"This helps to put the fight against haze in the hands of the consumer," said PM.Haze executive director Zhang Wen.

The two products - FairPrice Premium Cooking Oil and FairPrice Vegetable Oil - have been certified by its supplier to be from certified sources under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), said a FairPrice spokesman.

Oil palm has become a cause for concern as forests in Malaysia and Indonesia are cleared for these plantations. The forests are sometimes razed by fire, contributing to haze during the dry season.

Currently, RSPO-certified palm oil is "the closest to being haze-free", noted PM.Haze president Tan Yi Han.

NTUC FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng earlier announced in a Straits Times forum letter published last week that the supermarket now carries cooking oil from RSPO-certified sources. He was responding to a letter from PM.Haze's Mr Tan, who called for major supermarket chains to carry RSPO-certified palm oil.

Mr Tan said: "FairPrice's move is important as it shows that carrying sustainable palm oil products can be done without significantly increasing prices."

Noting that today is the 55th year to the day that Singapore first experienced haze on Oct 19, 1961, Mr Tan said FairPrice's move was apt as it showed that Singaporeans can contribute to the fight against haze instead of suffering in silence.

An ST check yesterday showed that FairPrice Premium Cooking Oil retails at $4.95 for a 2-litre bottle, while the 2-litre FairPrice Vegetable Oil costs $4.80.

While the price of FairPrice Premium Cooking Oil has remained the same, the price for the Vegetable Oil has increased by less than 5 per cent compared with last year.

"Though the cost for these products has increased, FairPrice has absorbed most of the additional cost," said a spokesman, adding that the chain's in-house products are still 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than popular brands.

Supermarket chain Giant said it is also working with RSPO-certified suppliers and is looking into providing more certified products "while bearing in mind that we need to provide a range of affordable products that will meet the needs of our customers".

Personal assistant Tan Kah Heok, 53, said she will support eco-friendly cooking oil options, provided the price difference is not too big.

But she added: "Not many people know what sustainable palm oil is, and some may think the ingredients have been changed and could have adverse health effects, so I think there needs to be better outreach."

The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) is trying to address this.

Last year, it launched the We Breathe What We Buy campaign with other non-government groups to educate the public about how everyday choices - from cheese to toothpaste and lipsticks - are driving the palm oil industry, where few companies employ sustainable or legal land-clearing practices.

This year, it is asking businesses here to do their part.

Mr Kim Stengert, WWF Singapore's communications director, said: "Despite the small size of the local market, Singapore-based brands have a strong Asia or even international presence... For Asean to meet its commitment of being haze-free by 2020, businesses here should already have plans in place to eliminate unsustainable palm oil sourcing."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline Eco-friendly cooking oil now available at FairPrice. Subscribe